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Levi Lusko - Negative Space


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Amazing. Well, we want to greet those of you who are at all of our different locations, every single campus. If you're in Kalispell, or Whitefish, Missoula, Billings, Bozeman, Helena, Polson, Salt Lake City, if you are at one of our network sites, our internet broadcast, radio, TV, we're glad to have you with us, so good, so good, so good. We're wrapping up a series of messages called Feature Creep this week. In a series of messages, it's actually one message that we've broke up into three pieces.

But the goal of the whole thing is to do some fall pruning. We're not going to wait to New Year to make our resolutions. We're not going to wait till spring to do some cleaning. We're going to do some pruning. We're doing some pruning in our hearts and our lives going in to winter, so we're ready for all that God has for us. We stated that our agenda is to come to a place where we're living lives that we look out, and we go, our lives are simple. They're beautiful. It's clear what's happening, what we're wanting to happen, less confusion, less unruly growth, and just things that cause our lives to feel like the scheduling equivalent of eating at Cheesecake Factory.

I don't know if you've been recently, but I brought with me to church this weekend a copy of the Cheesecake Factory menu, which is good to sit down and eat there. It's a great restaurant. But what stresses me out about the Cheesecake Factory is almost everything. When I sit down, and they hand this down, I always notice the table shakes when they set the menu down. And that's a problem. You got a story here. The story is this woman in the late 40s had found a newspaper clipping. And she found out about some new epic cheesecake. And so she wanted to make it. And she perfected her own original cheesecake. Well, by the 70s, her son decided: I'm going to open a restaurant up with the explicit purpose of selling Mama's cheesecake to the world. Which is awesome, everyone needs cheesecake.

And so we thank the Lord for delicious things like that. But what's interesting to me about this restaurant is that's page one with the story. And first page of drinks, and second and third page of drinks, and then we're onto the small plates. I'm already on chapter three. At page five, I'm just on to the small plates and snacks. And then I start to get to the flatbreads. And not to be confused with small plates, there's two whole pages of appetizers. Two pages of appetizers as distinct from the small plates, and then we get into the appetizer salads, an entire different category. Salads of an appetizer nature before we jump into pizzas, because he opened a restaurant up so he could sell cheesecake to the world.

And of course, at cheesecake restaurants, you got to have five pages of everything before you get to the cheesecake. But we're not even into it yet, because now we're at specialties. The specialty, which is not cheesecake, which is why they opened up the restaurant to sell cheesecake. But now they have a specialty section. And there's no cheesecake on it. It's very strange to me. And you find different things on this menu, like deep fried macaroni balls. I don't know what that is, but it sounds delicious. But it's not cheesecake. And then we get to an entire page dedicated to something called glam burgers, which I assume is like a glamorous hamburger. I can't be positive as I've never had one. But you have a whole page of them, and there are all sorts of different kinds of these glam burgers. And then we get into another page of specialties, which isn't the same as the other one apparently. That was a different kind of category of specialties, maybe it was appetizer specialties. Don't know. But this page is special, just somehow different special, from the other page's special.

And guess what, guys? Still no cheesecake. Haven't found a piece of cheesecake yet on the Cheesecake Factory menu labeled specialties. Another page labeled specialties, still no cheesecake. But there is teriyaki chicken. That sounds good. And we jump into more specialties with pastas now. Everything's special. But if everything's special, nothing's special. And we're now on specialties again, but it's fish and seafood. Another specialties section is steaks and chops. We've come now to a page of side dishes. They have something called succotash on there. Don't know what that is, but I remember Looney Tunes and suckering succotash. And ratatouille is on here. Hey, ratatouille, which is a specialty if you're watching a Pixar movie, but not cheesecake. And then we're into the salads again. But not the appetizer salads, these are just regular salads. These are going to be enormous salads. And then we're back into sandwiches.

I'm on page 16 now, guys. Haven't found the cheesecake yet, which is the purpose for this restaurant being opened, because Mom found it in the 40s. But it was opened in the 70s, and they buried it at the back, where it's obviously, now I'm at the eggs and omelets, served all day. And I found them, cheesecakes, all the way page 19 and page 20. I'm not knocking Cheesecake Factory. I think it's delicious. And they're doing like $2 billion. So they're doing all right. Don't pray for Cheesecake Factory. I think they're going to survive. But I bring this up because I think it's an interesting contrast to other restaurant experiences, where you don't have to read an entire novel to figure out what you want. And so I thought, as the best example as I could come up with that would be the other, polar opposite of this would be to go to another restaurant that began in the 40s. And I would be ordering one of these right here.

The interesting thing about In-N-Out Burger is that since 1948, when they opened, there have been four food items on the menu. Hamburger, cheeseburger, dropped my menu. Double hamburger, or as they call it, double double, and French fries. And there's a fifth item, which is one of their beverages, shake, a cup of coffee, lemonade, Coke, or water, or milk. So you have four food items and then one drink choice of these few here. All I'm trying to say is, in this series, we're trying to make sure our lives are like In-N-Out Burger more than they're like Cheesecake Factory when it comes to simplicity over complexity. We don't want to live lives that are just pages to even figure out what's the point, and what the stated idea is not even something that's evident from looking through what's being done. And what's happening is not what we want to happen.

So that by the time our lives are over, it hasn't just been a big, confusing ordeal. We laid out the problem of Feature Creep in the first installment. In the second installment, we gave a plan. What's the plan? The plan is cutting so we can run. Cutting so we can run - that message was all about subtraction, how we need to learn the things that we need to subtract from our lives in order to deal with this remedy of this featuritis, of just the way we add, and add, and add, and add. Now, listen, this is going to be difficult. That message I gave you, all of us probably need to put it on our schedule to listen to it, probably yearly, maybe quarterly, because of the way that featuritis creeps back in when we're least expecting it. And we live in a world full of super-sized mentality, and increasingly so. What do you mean by that? I mean this.

When McDonald's first opened, did you know, that the largest size drink you could buy was five ounces? The largest drink you could purchase at McDonald's, when they opened up, that Americans would go in, and say, I want a hamburger from McDonald's, the largest size drink you could get with your order was five ounces. At this moment, I had one of my assistants call a local McDonald's. The largest size you can buy is 30 ounces. How interesting is that? Just the largeness of our food, and that same thing goes with the largeness of our homes. In 1950, the average size home being built in America was only 983 square feet, and sold for an average price of $11.000. Flash forward to the latest metrics I could find, 2015, when the average sized home being built in America is 2.520 square feet. So 2 and 1/2 times larger, and the price, on average, $296.400.

So we live in a world, in a country, in a culture, that's all about this feature creep. You've got to have a bigger house. You ought to drink more soda. You've got to have more things. You've got to do more things. And that's the world we live in. So we live in a world where more is equated with better, where more features is supposedly better value. And so we have to live protecting our souls, knowing what environment we live in. And so to give us now the final aspect of this, and that's the picture of what our lives could be when we use our plan to attack the problem, when we cut away from the feature creep, when we hack away at it, when we throw away the weights that easily hinder, and the sin that so easily entangles itself around our feet what are we left with.

Well, here's a picture of what it looks like. And if you have a Bible, make your way with me to Acts, Chapter 20. If you don't have a Bible, no worries at all. We're going to put the verse on screen for you. I assure you of that. I'm calling this message Negative Space. As you're making your way there, maybe for those of you who are not super familiar with the Bible, let me help you. Just give you a bird's eye view. The Bible has two pieces, the Old Testament and the New Testament. And the Old Testament is really an old covenant, a covenant which is a contract or a promise, and primarily, this promise, this covenant, that God made between himself and the nation of Israel. And what we find in the new covenant is God's promise to the whole world through his son, Jesus Christ. And the New is in the Old. You can see it there. It's just concealed. And the Old is in the New. It's just now revealed, so we can understand it.

And so when we look at the New Testament, which is where the book of Acts is at, we have these gospels. And these are the stories of what Jesus did while he was on the Earth. And then we have the epistles, which are letters, that is just an old school way of saying letters, that were written by individuals in the New Testament after Jesus left the Earth. And the book of Acts is a document that tells the story of what Jesus did through His Holy Spirit in his church, after His presence physically was no longer being felt on the Earth. So all the letters, which are all the different epistles, Peter's writings, John's writings, Paul's writings, the book of Hebrews, these are all the correspondence that correlate to the period that's documented in the book of Acts.

So like the Gospels, Acts is biographical in nature. And you have all the miscellaneous attachments to this period, which are the letters. We don't have all of them, But these are the ones that God wanted us to have. And so that's what we're reading. This is after a guy called Jesus was on the Earth for 3 and 1/2 years, died, and then wasn't dead anymore, which makes us all noteworthy. If that didn't happen, then I submit to you we are wasting our time tremendously. So that's just a little bit of a context. Because Jesus was dead and predicted his death, and predicted that if you checked with him a couple of days after he died, he wouldn't be there anymore in the grave, that makes all of this significant and noteworthy and life changing for us. Otherwise, what the heck do we care about 2.000 year old correspondence? It matters because of this guy Jesus who died and then wasn't dead anymore, so kind of a big deal.

One of the people who wrote a lot of these books in the New Testament is a guy named Paul. And Paul was one of the biggest enemies in the world of Jesus. Until, all of a sudden, he encountered Jesus, and Jesus changed his life. And then he gave his entire life to making sure everyone could encounter Jesus like he had. And we find a unique story from Paul's life, that's nearing the end of his life, in Acts, Chapter 20. There's only 28 chapters in the book of Acts, so, of course, we're getting close to the end as Paul is here in Chapter 20. He has just spent three years preaching in the same city, a city called Ephesus. And later on, he wrote a letter called the Ephesian Letter. And that's the letter to this church. But three years in this city makes it the longest time he ever spent in one place. Paul will get itchy feet to reach out to new places. And so he would go. And of course, the leaders of that church and the people in that church, they were like his babies. They came to know Jesus through his preaching. So they loved him like crazy. And so he asked them to come spend some time with him, a little bit of time, before he left. Why was he leaving right here?

Well, he felt like God wanted him to go to Jerusalem. Now, that's the most dangerous place Paul could go, because there were so many enemies to preachers who believed in Jesus in Jerusalem. But Paul felt a calling on his heart. And you just can't do anything about that. When God calls you to do something, try as you might, you're going to resist it and be miserable or just go along with it. People ask us all the time. Why did we move to the Northwest from where we were at in Orange County, California? Do you love hunting? And we're like, no, we don't love being in the belly of a whale. Jonah reference, you're like, what? Whatever, forget it. My point is it doesn't matter really where you are. If you're in God's will, if you're doing what God calls you to do, I'll live in Siberia. It doesn't really matter. It's less about location, location, location, than it it is about being with Jesus, being with Jesus, being with Jesus. And doing what he wants you to do.

So Paul's like, I'm going to Jerusalem then. And all of his friends are like, Paul, don't go. Paul, don't go. It won't work. In fact, you'll get killed. Paul, you'll get beat up. Paul, it's going to go bad. Paul, we just have a bad feeling about this. And then some people actually started to come to him and say stuff like this. We feel like God wants us to tell you not to go. Someone told me that when we were going to start Fresh Life. God doesn't want you to go. I'm like, did he call you? Because he didn't tell me that. That's weird that he gave you such information about my life. But one guy said the Holy Spirit wants you want you to know, if you go, you're going to get beat up. You're going to get put into chains. You're going to get arrested. By the way, all these things would happen to Paul when he went. But check out Paul's response. We're going to read three verses in Acts Chapter 20. They're starting in verse 22. Paul says, "and see now. I go bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city saying that chains and tribulations await me".

Now, notice this. Don't miss this. This is one of the most important verses. "But none of these things move me. Nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy. And the ministry which I receive from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God". How great is Paul's resolve here? My whole message in one sentence, this whole third installment of this message, in one sentence, it's not stupid to keep it simple. Come on, how good is that? You've probably heard "keep it simple, stupid". "Keep it simple, stupid," is probably not the worst thing you could have on a Post-It note. But I just want to sell this to you. It's not stupid at all. About the least stupid thing you could do is to keep it simple. And Paul's life is living proof because he, at one point, suffered from featuritis. Man, if anybody ever had feature bloat, it was Paul.

There was a point in Paul's life where he cared what everybody thought about him. So the cares of this world were pressing down. There was a point in his life with anxiety. There was a point in his life where he was a people-pleaser. He said that. There was a point where having power and being looked at by people, it meant a lot to him. And religion, man. And by the way, religion is one of the biggest feature creeps you could have in your life. Because God wants to be about your relationship with Jesus, not some religious thing you could do for God. Religion is about what we do for God. Having a relationship with Jesus is awesome because it's about what he did for us, how he died for us. And it's all about grace. And that's the power that we stand in.

So Paul, he had so many things that mattered to him. There were so many things that had crept up. His life was like a Cheesecake Factory not an In-N-Out Burger somebody. But then in Philippians Chapter 3, look what he said he did with his feature creep. He said, "indeed, I count all things lost for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things. And I'm running my race, so I count them as rubbish. I count them as rubbish that I may gain Christ".

You see Paul had done his prioritizing. He figured out what his finish line was. And all that mattered to him was running his race and finishing what God called him to do. He was in his lane. He was inspired by those who were around him. But his eyes were set on Jesus' face. And all that mattered, was doing what God wanted him to do. So he could say, none of these things move me. You weeping, you breaking my heart, you telling me that I shouldn't do it. I'm going to do what God calls me to do, because everything else to me compared to that is like garbage. Everything else like that is lesser than I've prioritized. I've done my yesses first.

And so the noes, they're taking care of themselves. I tell weight that's going to hinder me it's a sin that's going to easily entangle me. All I want to do is keep on running. All I want to do is keep on going. All I want to do is finish strong. I'm going to do what God calls me to do. And he didn't want to die, but he was ready to die. And listen to me very carefully. No one is truly ready to live who is not prepared to die. So the wisest thing you could do in life is to be prepared to meet your maker. And then, you can just follow God fearlessly and courageously. And you can live life to the full, not always worried about the end of it all, not always concerned about what's going to happen. Once that is cleared up, you can really get to living. And so we have that example here in Paul. Let's pray together. Then we'll talk about negative space.

Father, we're grateful. We're grateful for the way that, as we read these words, there's just power in it. We believe there's power in your Word. And we thank you that because of Jesus who rose, we have the promise that we can rise if we trust in Christ. And I pray, just right now, over every single person and every location, every situation and unique thing we bring to this moment, because we're not all going through the same stuff. And we haven't all lived the same experience. And we don't all have the same pain, but we do all have the same God who loves us. And so right now, we just pray for that. And we just pray that you do something so powerful and so special, right now, right here, that it would impact us and influence us in the days to come. Because it doesn't really matter if we get together and have a big ra-ra-ra, great God, great God, and then we go out and we live like jerks. And we go out, and it doesn't influence our marriages. Oh, that was a good talk. But then we don't go out and live differently. So that's what we pray for today. We pray that what would happen in this gathering would lead to change lives this week. And that we would have a brighter countenance. We would have more of a pep in our step as we live our lives among hurting people who need to be encouraged. And we have just what they're looking for. And so we pray that, asking that above all things, if there's someone here today who doesn't know you, who's without God, without hope in this world, you draw them to yourself. And we pray this in Jesus' name. And everyone said together, Amen. Amen.


Negative space, that's a topic that, if you've ever taken an art class of any kind, you've probably heard that phrase. Negative space, negative space, what is it? Negative space is the space that surrounds an object in a painting or in a photograph, like in this photo here of this vase. Negative space is the white that surrounds this golden vase. Space is all about boundary and border. Boundary and border, when you have negative space, when there's allowed to be space around an object, it causes there to be a defined boundary. That's what the negative space is. But it also gives a sense of balance to the piece. There's balance, and there's boundary. There's a border and a definition that comes from it. So it's the space that surrounds an object. It's what's not there that informs what is there.

And here's our first take-away truth. And we have a couple, so jot them all down if you can. A space you leave lets things breathe. Space you leave lets things breathe. You see, the cool thing about negative space is that it gives your eye a chance to relax. Like in this photograph, for example, the negative space is the sky. And the positive space, of course, would be the telephone poles. And as you look at this photograph, what's interesting is that your eye will take in the telephone poles. But there's a relief that comes over you. Isn't there, as you look at it? Because all of the sky, and they could have shot this in any different way. They could have focused up on the telephone poles or looking down on it. But the way it's shot allows there to be an emphasis on the negative space. And it's very pleasing to your eye. Your eye relaxes as it sees it because there's space for your eye to go to that's not crowded, and full, and cluttered with all sorts of different things.

This picture has plenty of breathing room. I'm told the same is true in music, though the names are different. But when there's a moment of silence, or a moment of rest, or a transition where things drop out, that's effectively negative space in a song. And interestingly enough, rather than taking away intensity by allowing that to happen, there to be that rest for a moment before things come roaring back in, it actually is a tool to create even more intensity. And like in the theme song to Jaws or many song examples we could pick, there's the intentional use of negative space that actually brings power, but also gives your heart and your ears a chance to rest for a moment before it ramps up. The point is in art editing out is an essential step in creating and getting out a vision. Editing is so important and often overlooked. There was a French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who once said, "perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away".

So oftentimes, what we have there, we look at, and we think, oh, I need to add more. If this isn't right yet, what needs to be added in order for it to get there? But oftentimes, it's what's there that needs to be removed that can cause the telephone poles to pop now because you have enough sky. But in the song, or in the business plan, or in the schedule, there's just so much there you can't appreciate what's there because there's not enough of that border and not enough of the balance that comes from having the right amount of negative space. I learned this the hard way in the process of writing both of the two books that I've written, both in Through the Eyes of a Lion that came out in August of 2015 and also Swipe Right, the newest book that I recently wrote. That's coming out in February of 2017, so excited about it. She's asking me to do something, to change something, to move something around, to write more on something here, and back.

So this is all that went in. This is one page of, when I turned it in, was a 60.000 word manuscript in Microsoft Word. All right, but now, I want to show you something really cool. Here's the exact same page, but finished right now, in the pages as it looked today. OK, and if you're smart, you'll take a picture. And then you'll have one page of my book. OK, now, I say finish. This is right now. By the way, doesn't it look beautiful? It's the first typeset as the fonts come in. Anyhow, super cool, just got that back last week. So I'm really excited about that. But I have to go through now and read it, and there's going to be a few more rounds of the tweaks and all that here. But what's interesting is you see the second paragraph. "Everyone who takes a plane brings something on board". And if you look above that, it talks about Jennie would push the stroller with two babies, and Liv and Lydia could barely manage their rolling bags. I'd be left trying to manage four suitcases, all the car seats.

I learned right away to get a Smart Cart, best $5 I ever spent. There was a lot of conversation about whether that's actually $5. Research was done on whether it's $5 in every city. I will spare you the particulars. They actually sent people to different Smart Cart locations to figure it out. Anyhow, but then it talks about what happened was my Smart Cart full of all this luggage and car seats one time, it fell down. And it says, "it littered suitcases and car seats from Hertz all the way to Alamo". I thought that was good writing. "Hertz all the way to Alamo," because it's pleasing. Anyhow, no, go back to the other one for a second. I was just in my world here. This is why I'm so crazy. Don't judge me, because you don't know what I've been through.

So you can find the same line "from Hertz all the way to Alamo," but you'll notice if you look at it carefully when you look at your screen grab, your illicit screen grab, later, you'll notice that there's two whole paragraphs that aren't there at all in the final one. But they were here. And we agonized over them. And we deliberated over them. Two whole paragraphs, one about me taking a bicycle in a box once, and one's about me cutting my thumb all the way to the tendon. I have a scar, actually, still to this day, and how troublesome that can be. And how sometimes what we pack into bags can come back to haunt us in difficult ways we weren't ready for, the whole thing. And it was perfectly fine. But guess what? Go back to other one. It's not there anymore because subtracting, editing out, is an essential part of creating.

And actually looking at it now, every paragraph that's in the book is stronger because of the ones that no longer are. Every sentence where there were two examples are now more robust and less fatiguing, because your eye has a chance to rest, because the one's been taken away. What I'm trying to tell you is that space you leave lets things breathe. And even though I've resisted it in the moment every single time, as I look at it now, I go, it is undeniably stronger because it didn't need two analogies. They saw something I didn't see, because they're not so close up to the trees that they can see the forest, and go, it's better here. So right now, Swipe Right sits at 56.000 words. It's better because of what's been taken away. You've got to hack at the feature creep.

Steve Jobs, he once said that the secret of innovation is saying no 1.000 different times, saying no to 1.000 different things. How do you get the insanely great products? You focus on a few things, and you do them really well. You say no to that. You say no to that. Some of you need to be saying no to more things. It's not what you need to add. It's what needs to be removed, what needs to be taken out. Here's my question. What breathing room is there in your life? Do you have time take a walk? When was the last time you were just alone taking a walk without your phone? Do you have time, extra time, built into your commute? Or is it so to the minute that if one thing doesn't go according to your calculations, and you get one red where you thought there was going to be a green, now I'm late. Now, I'm stressed. And now I'm mad, and now I'm angry.

And I'm coming into work in a huff. Or are you leaving margin? What if we didn't time it to the T, but we left there to be breathing room for our eyes to relax, for our heart to relax? Is there is there breathing room built into your budget? Or is that where it's so strapped tight that if one thing is always going to happen. One thing will always happen. So we have to plan for there to be more margin. That's the first take-away. Write this down. This is the second one. When you cut back the excess, you can enjoy the precious. When you cut back the excess, you can enjoy the precious. This is something we have to do every single year as a church is we budget. We budget and make wise plans for how we're going to steward this money that we all give in our tithes and offerings. We've got to make wise plans. And to have to make the budget that we set, let me tell you something.

Sometimes it's so challenging to go, what things have to go? And sometimes it's difficult. We'll have to cut something away because we're going to make this budget work and plan wisely. But you know what's been so beautiful is, oftentimes, the things that we cut, they're like, I can't live without that. The moment we cut it away, that's much better. It's much better without that. We actually didn't need that. We see something. Maybe we didn't need that staff position. Maybe we didn't need to do that where we were spending money that seemed like it made sense at the time. I see that in Paul's life, because Paul went through this process. We talked about it, of him cutting away things that he once valued, but now he counts them as loss. Once I couldn't live without it, pleasing people, or having this religious thing in his life, and now he's like, come on. None of these things move me. I go to jail. I don't get to jail. I do this. He could enjoy his life because things weren't controlling his heart. What remained that was precious? Love of God, love of people, love of God, love of people, that's what was pure. That's what was precious when he removed away the excess things that were in his heart.

Now, that doesn't mean Paul could not enjoy other blessings from God. On the contrary, look what he said in Philippians. He said, "I have learned in whatever state I am to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound". Now, what does abound mean? It means to be flush. It means to have it taken care of. He's got money in the bank. Paul, he knew how to do that. He knew how to be blessed when it was good times, and he knew how to handle it when it was difficult times. He said, "everywhere and in all things, I've learned both to be full. And I can be hungry. I can abound, and I can suffer". Come on, somebody. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength". Once riches, and once the cares of this world, and once the desire for other things are taken out of our hearts, then we can be trusted to have them in our hands.

Come on, I'm preaching better than you're listening. Listen, we can be trusted to have them when they no longer have us. And that's what Paul is saying. He said, I could do well. I could live high, but I can also live low. And the thing for us is to come to a place where we realize we don't get to keep any of them any way long term. And so you never have to mourn something that you knew was never yours in the first place. And that's what Paul has tapped into that we have at our disposal as well. Now, you should think through your life. What could I not still worship God and be happy if I didn't have anymore? What am I left? Because if there's anything in your life where you say, I could not live if I didn't have that, or that defines me, I couldn't live, life would have no meaning if I didn't have that, let me just flash forward to the end of your life. You won't have that.

Look what Paul told Timothy. He said, "godliness with contentment is great gain, because it is certain", look at this, "It is certain that we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can't take anything with us when we leave it". That helps, doesn't it? I can't live without it. You will. And it hurts a lot less when things are torn from your hands when you keep a light touch on them. When you're holding them like this, inevitably they're going to be torn from your hands, all of us. But when we hold them with a light touch going, this isn't mine. God's entrusted me with it. I'm going to be a blessing. I'm going to use it to love God and love people. I'm going to enjoy his blessings but not be defined by them. Who am I does not come from what I have, but whose I am, who I belong to, what he has done for me, how he has promised to use me the way that he's for me.

You see, then you can enjoy the riches. You can enjoy abundance. Or you can be just as happy not having the things. But you're living knowing you're going to leave it all anyway. Because death either takes you to your treasure or from it, depending on where you keep it. If your treasure is in heaven, then death takes you to it. If your treasure is on earth, then nothing you try will keep it with you. Even if you do the ancient Egyptian thing, and you get buried with all your toys. You're buried with all your cash. Let me tell you something. The British archaeologists, they broke in thousands of years later. And Tut wasn't playing with any of his toys. It was all just still lying there, because it's certain we can't take it with us. So we should use it to build God's kingdom, because we do get to enjoy the blessing and benefit from anything we use to love God and love people, to build his church, to advance his cause in the world.

And so there is a great, tremendous power that comes from cutting back the excess from our hearts so we can enjoy what's truly precious. And then we become safe to bless as God would see fit. There's a third. The third thing we need to know is this. It's not just about stuff but also about people, even relationships. What do I mean? I mean this. The wrong people can get in the way of things going right. Jot that down. The wrong people in your life, now, I'm not talking about people you'll encourage, people you'll encounter, people you'll seek to be a blessing to. I'm talking about people in your life that you allow to speak into your life. I'm talking about people who you are doing life with. The wrong people can keep things from going right as God wants them to go. Listen to this. Researcher Will Phelps has found that having a single bad apple on a team can harm a team's performance by as much as 40%. 40%, the impact of having a bad apple, that should take up to all of us who lead teams, who lead people, to be aware of what we're allowing in the morale, of what we're allowing into the culture. One bad apple, and every one of us are probably thinking through.

Yeah, that's interesting because in my life experience bears witness of that. It's true. And when you get the right people off the bus, the bus can move along a lot better. And so the same is true for our lives as well. And Paul, man, throughout his life, there were people that would come and go from his life. And sometimes it was interesting. It was people who he thought were going to be there forever. This one dude, Barnabas, Barnabas was Paul's boy. And in fact, Barnabas spoke up and vouched for Paul when no one would trust Paul. And so they had this unique bond. And they both probably would have said, yeah, we're friends forever. We have a necklace that's two hearts together, BFF. And they were homies. They were thick like that. And you know what? There came a point in time when they went different directions. They parted ways.

And you think about John Mark. John Mark was someone who was on Paul's team for a while. And John Mark, he probably told Paul, man, I'll be with you. I'll be with you to the end, man. And then stuff got difficult, and you know what happened? John Mark ran back home because he had money back there. There was a good life back there. And it was a sexy sounding idea to have Paul's back, until he saw the crap that Paul went through. And then he was, yeah, kind of not for me. Didn't see all that on Instagram in the shot I saw of you preaching. I thought it was all going to be glamor and backroom. So there's going to be opposition. I wasn't ready for this. So John Mark bails. And so John Mark left Paul's life. And then there's a dude named Demas. Demas, everyone say "Demas". Demas. Demas forsook Paul, having loved the things of the world more than the things of God.

So there was a point where he got into the minutiae for what he thought he was going to get out of it, which God's never going to bless that. And that will always expose itself eventually. So Demas was in it for what he could get from it. And so at a certain point, he forsook Paul, having loved the things of the world. So you got Demas. You've got John Mark. You've got Barnabas. And in every single one of those, the situations and the circumstances were different, every single one of them. And they bear the truth of our life experience that not everybody who we thought were going to be in our lives are always going to look the same. I came across a quote. I don't know who to attribute it to, but I thought it was powerful enough to give to you, entrust to your character. It's helped me to have a world view on how I look at situations where it's difficult because someone's not there, as is constantly the case.

Listen to me carefully. "People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime". "People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime". And when you have that mentality about it, it gives you the ability to say, God, you brought this person into my life. And the moment someone's gone, OK, God brought them into my life for a reason. Was there a blessing that they gave to me while they were here? Was there something I was supposed to encourage them in? Or is it for a season? It wasn't just a reason, one task. It was a season. We were together for a while. I rejoice over that. I'm excited about that. And then some people, at the end of the day, you'll look back, and go, oh my gosh, we did make it together. And that someone got brought into your life for a lifetime.

So I just want to just free you from this thing like it needs to happen. Come on. God can bring someone into our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. If it happened to Paul, it's going to happen to us. If it happened to Jesus, it'll happen to us. There were people who cruised with Jesus for awhile. It got hard. They turned back and left. He turned to the twelve, and said, you going to blow too? Gave them the access. Gave them the opportunity. Hey, feel free at any point. It's not for everyone. If you don't want to cruise, that's cool. Here's your chance to get off the bus. But if we're going to be on the bus, here's where we're going. It's going to be this way. This is the culture we're going to fight for. These are the things that matter to us. It matters so much that we're going to make it a place that it would be really miserable to work for if you're not believing these same sorts of things that we are. But there has to be permission that God can do that. And we have to be OK with that.

A reason, a season, or a lifetime. And sometimes, you have to make the conscious decision. OK, you know what? We're going to change here. Because listen, the goal is negative space, not being surrounded by negative people. And I just want you to know, if you're awesome, and they're always just pouring, pouring water on your fire, and a wet blanket to your faith, it might not be someone who's opposed to Christianity. It could be a lukewarm, apathetic Christian who's been around the church enough to be dangerous. Because they're, oh, it's been tried before. And it is always just discouraging. You know what I would say? I would say, I love you. I'm going to love you from a distance, because you're having a negative influence on me. And maybe even just to say, hey, look here's the deal. I really care about you, but it seems like every time we're together, it's gossip. And it's this, and you're divisive, and everything you're saying is negative.

And I want to live my life positively because God has a good plan, and he's a good God, and he's up to something great. And I'm not trying to be prideful. I just see this, and so we're not going to hang out quite as much. There's going to be just a little bit of a separation here. I'm going to draw a line, because I want negative space not negative people. And that choice of pruning out someone who you're around a lot is something you can do to actually bring your life forward. All right, I got one more. Is this encouraging anybody? I hope so. This is just a picture. I'm just trying to give you a picture of what could be possible if you would take the radical steps of cutting away, of cutting away, of cutting away. If you would take your race that you're on, the finish line would be tunnel vision in your heart. And you would cut away things that would keep you from it, that you might come to a place of saying, but none of these things move me. And neither do I count my life dear to myself. I just want to finish my race with joy.

The last thing you need to know is that subtraction is actually a form of addition. It's an act of addition. Subtraction, because cutting away actually adds something. Why? Because every time you take something away, it leaves a hole. Every time you take something away, it leaves a void. Every time you take something away, there's the footprint left of what was there but no longer isn't. And there's information in missing information. There's something there that can be there, and what was there, but isn't there. And I don't think you're quite understanding it. I probably am not explaining it quite correctly. So let's go back to the vase. We began here. The vase, what's there, is a vase. And what's not there is just negative space. Or is it two faces? Two faces in missing places, come on, you see. Because subtraction is actually an act of addition.

In that negative space, there's something there. There's information in missing information. How cool is that, by the way? Just amazingly cool. Or how about here? What about in this next one? Is it man's legs or is it women's legs? If you stare at this one long enough, you will go cross-eyed and begin foaming at the mouth a little bit. I keep trying to figure out which is the negative space, and my eyes go up and down. And then, I just start rocking back and forth slowly, saying, "all work and no play makes Levi a dull boy". I don't say that. I never have. But I could. It's the negative space. But what's missing is actually adding something. Isn't that beautiful? An optical illusion, how about this one here? Is there a triangle there, or is it just you subtract it from your kiwis? I swear there's a triangle. There isn't. What's there is there because of what isn't there. What's there is there because of the margin.

There's breathing room in those kiwis, so you get a triangle out of it. And you've got to eat the kiwis, so you got a win-win-win. All you do is win. How about this one? Is it Peter or is it his wolf? Is it Peter? I can't tell. Is it his wolf? Because the negative space is Peter, but it isn't. It's just the way the wolf is chasing. What is he chasing? A rabbit, quail? But Peter's there. Why? We added Peter by taking away wolf. They could have filled it with lots of other things from the story, but they didn't. And so you have something beautiful because of what isn't there. I love this one. Is it a tree? Is it a tree, or is it a gorilla and a tiger? I don't know. Pittsburgh Zoo, you tell me. It's amazing what is possible.

I guess my favorite example is the FedEx logo. You see, back in the 70s, FedEx's amazing idea revolutionized the world, that still to this day freaks me out. When I can mail something around the world, and it'll get there overnight. It still blows my mind to this day. FedEx is what people called it though. They said, we'll FedEx that. It was called Federal Express. But people started saying, hey, FedEx that to me. This was an instance where people changed the name of a company, because people started making it a verb. And it literally became a verb that we will use to say. FedEx it. That didn't exist, that's just how people talked about it. So what they decided, check this out. They decided that we're actually going to change the name of our company. We're going to change the name to FedEx.

So they commissioned a graphic design firm to come up with a logo to say this new word, FedEx. And they came up with 200 different possibilities, 200 different ways to shorten the name Federal Express to FedEx. At least 200 options, they boiled it down to five. And in 1994, they brought five options, five markups of these logos, to the company headquarters in Memphis. And Fred Smith, and he's the CEO and founder, and the whole team, they're sitting there. And among the five that were presented that day, they had them shown on airplanes, and had them shown on vans. It was very creative how they showed it to them. But of the five, here was one of them right here that is to this day the FedEx logo that we know and love. But what Fred Smith noticed that none of his men noticed was the logo that they snuck in, which is the arrow. Right there, between the E and the X, there's an arrow, which absolutely blew my mind. I'm not telling, when I saw it there, I was reading this blog. And I was like, no. And I had to Google FedEx. I was like, oh, it's there.

Now every time, and I just did it to you. Every time a FedEx van goes by, you're going to be like, ah! Oh gosh, it's there too. I cannot see the FedEx logo. I only see arrows everywhere. I only see logos. Now, none of Fred Smith's men in his room, none of them, saw right away. He was like, I like that one because of the arrow. They were like, well, what do you mean, the arrow? And they were like, oh. OK, but get this. They, of course, picked that to be the logo. And of course, they wanted to ruin it immediately. What do you mean? The marketing department of FedEx said, it's great, but we should outline it. We should add something to it. We should let the whole world, we should subtract it, and start using it in certain places, just the arrow. And everyone said, from the design company, no, please don't do that. Why? Because the power is the subtlety.

It's not a cool arrow, it's just a very, very basic arrow. Its power is its subtlety. Its power is what's not there. Its power is how low key it is. Its power is that I have been looking at this logo for every single day of my entire life, but I've never seen it. So now I'm telling everybody about it. I'm like there's an arrow. Do you guys see the arrow? Because I saw something that I never saw before. But the only reason it got there is because of what's not there. It's won 40 different design awards. It's widely considered one of the most perfect, gestalt pieces of design ever done by humans. It's considered one of the eight greatest logos of any corporation ever in history. Why? Because of what's been taken away, because of what's missing, because of what's been pruned, because of what's been cut back, because of what's been left out.

And my question to you is: do you have space for an arrow? Do you have space to point to God? Do you have space to say, he's great, and he's good. And there's margin in my life for me to point you to him and tell you about him. Are you allowing there to be the blessing that God wants there to be for you, and through you, because of what you are willing to let go from your heart? Come on, I dare you all across our church. Put your eyes on Jesus, and then just trust him. No matter trials, no matter what storms, no matter what difficulties come, he's purifying. He's pruning you. He's giving you space. He's giving you breathing room. So keep your eyes on him. Come on, let's celebrate the goodness of our God all across our church.
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